Cold and flu season help

Well, the weather has turned and coughs and colds are starting to get passed around and linger. So how to help keep you (& your family and friends) healthy? Good hearty soups, stews and sauces rich in garlic, ginger and onions will certainly help, but my kids refuse to eat them! The solution? Elderberry syrup! Its sweet and tasty, bursting with Vitamin C and phytochemicals that improve your ability to resist infection (with a similar action to Echinacea), eases an irritating cough and has some direct anti-viral activity. Research (Zakay-Rones et al, 1995) has shown that elderberry syrup reduces the duration of a ‘flu infection. Take 1 teaspoon (5ml) per day to prevent illness and 1 teaspoon every 1-2 hours in acute infection.

Elderberries (Sambucus nigra)
Elderberries (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry syrup is available from the Blackrock Herbal Clinic dispensary, together with other herbs good for improving immunity, such as Rosehip Syrup and tinctures of Astragalus and Echinacea. It is also simple to make:

Elderberry syrup recipe

50g dried / 100g fresh elderberries

750ml water

10g cloves / cinammon stick (optional, increases the anti-viral warming action if your kids like the flavour)

500g sugar / honey (honey is antibacterial and soothes the throat)

Simmer the elderberries (and clove / cinammon if using) in the water for 20 mins, until the volume is reduced to around 500ml. Strain and return to pan with an equal weight of sugar or honey (1 millilitre liquid to 1 gramme). Heat gently until the sugar / honey is dissolved and a thin syrup forms. Pour into sterile jars (15 min in 140 degree C oven should do) and keep in fridge for up to 6 months. Ours never lasts that long! Its great diluted for hot cordials, or served with sparkling water or prosecco for a delicious drink…

About the herb: Elder (Sambucus nigra) is often called “Nature’s medicine chest” – every part of this shrub/small tree can be used medicinally. The flowers (June/July) treat hayfever and cold symptoms, while the berries boost immune response and fight viruses. The leaf and bark are strongly anti-viral but can be purgative (cause diarrhoea and vomiting) in overdose.


Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano, N, Zlotnik M, Manor O, Regev L, Schlesinger M, Mumcuoglu M (1995) JInhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J  Alt Complement Med 1995 Winter; 1 (4): 361-9